Buenos Aires, Dec 20 (EFE).- Argentina’s national soccer team had to be airlifted from a World Cup celebration on Tuesday afternoon in this capital, where the presence of millions of fans along the route slowed the players’ open-air, double-decker bus to a crawl and created security concerns.
The vehicle carrying the victorious squad set off at 11.30 am from the headquarters of the Argentine soccer association (AFA) in the Buenos Aires suburb of Ezeiza and traveled down Riccheri Ave. toward the area surrounding the city’s iconic Obelisk, where hundreds of thousands of people were awaiting their soccer heroes.
The bus, however, had only traveled 15 kilometers (9.3 miles) after four and a half hours due to the enormous crowds.
Then after two fans tried to leap onto the vehicle from a bridge, one of whom fell to the pavement, a decision was made to divert the bus along Larrazabal Ave. to the southwestern neighborhood of Villa Lugano.
Several navy helicopters subsequently picked the players up at a secure field and took them on an aerial tour of downtown Buenos Aires.
The parade thus was scrapped in favor of a brief flyover above cheering fans who had congregated on the July 9 Avenue thoroughfare and nearby streets, in some cases since shortly after the team’s plane had landed in the wee hours of Tuesday.
“They wouldn’t let us arrive and greet all the people at the Obelisk (in Buenos Aires’ Plaza de la Republica). The security agencies that were escorting us wouldn’t allow us to go any further. I apologize on behalf of all the champion players. It’s a shame,” AFA President Claudio “Chiqui” Tapia said in a mid-afternoon post on Twitter.
“We want to thank Buenos Aires province and its security minister, Sergio Berni, who was the only one who accompanied the team along the entire route up to the entrance to the capital, with no incidents, allowing the players to connect with the Argentine people,” Tapia said in a subsequent tweet.
The helicopter evacuation brought an end to a chaotic journey marked by continuous changes to the players’ itinerary and a general sense of confusion among the fans who had packed the streets for the party after President Alberto Fernandez had declared Tuesday to be a national holiday.
Argentina won their third World Cup title Sunday in the Qatari city of Lusail with a 4-2 win over France on penalties after the teams had played to a heart-pounding 3-3 draw over 90 minutes of regulation and 30 minutes of extra time.
The game itself ended in euphoria for Argentine fans, who watched their team weather a pair of furious French comebacks before emerging victorious.
But Tuesday’s celebration proved bittersweet, with the hundreds of thousands of fans who had gathered near the Obelisk ultimately waiting for hours and hours for a bus that never arrived. EFE